Presentation on theme: "In our February 7 issue, you’ll read about China, the most populous nation on Earth and a rising economic superpower."— Presentation transcript:
In our February 7 issue, you’ll read about China, the most populous nation on Earth and a rising economic superpower.
China is only slightly smaller in area than the U.S., yet it has at least a billion more people (1.3 billion versus 310 million). The two countries are important trading partners—and rivals for global influence.
Over the past 100 years, China has weathered enormous, often violent, changes. For reasons you will see, the country’s transformation into an economic powerhouse has startled much of the world.
For centuries, China was ruled by the Emperors of powerful dynasties. Then, in 1911, rebels overthrew the Qing (CHING) dynasty and declared China a republic (a state in which power rests with the people). Sun Yat-sen, the “Founding Father of Republican China,” was its first President. But China soon split into warring factions. Sun died in 1925. Chiang Kai-shek (shown here), the new leader of Sun’s Nationalist Party, turned against a former ally, the Communists, driving them into the countryside. Finally in 1928, the Nationalists defeated all other armies and unified China.
Tens of thousands of people died during the arduous journey, known as the Long March. But it inspired sympathy among ordinary Chinese for the Communists and their leader, Mao Zedong (shown here on horseback). But the Communists were building strength in their rural bases. Chiang sent his armies to attack them. In 1934, the Communists were forced to flee 6,000 miles to northwestern China. They trekked across towering mountain ranges and along snaking rivers.
During World War II (1939-45), the Nationalists and Communists joined forces to fight their common enemy, Japan. But by 1947, civil war had begun again. By now, Mao had won widespread support among peasants. He encouraged them to seize landlords’ fields, and exploited anger over Chiang’s repressive government. In late 1949, Communist forces took control of the country. Later images like this one showed Mao proclaiming the People’s Republic of China. That December, Chiang Kai-shek and the defeated Nationalists fled to Taiwan, an island off China’s coast, which they declared the Republic of China.
As Chairman of the Communist Party and China’s leader, Mao sought to radically transform his impoverished country into a world power. For Mao, changing China also meant tightly controlling it. The Communists organized mass movements to promote unity and viciously suppressed dissent. Many Chinese were obsessed with Quotations From Chairman Mao, the “little red book” they were required to carry at all times. Rallies like this one became commonplace.
But Mao’s largest social movements were catastrophic. In 1958, the Great Leap Forward forcibly relocated millions of farmers to factories. That left few people to farm. Crops, if they were planted at all, rotted in the fields. Famines killed as many as 50 million Chinese. During the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s, Mao encouraged rallies like this to denounce rivals for “betraying” Communist ideals. Many people were persecuted, and terror spread across China.
In the early 1970s, China sought to overcome its isolation and began reaching out to Western nations. In 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon (left) made a historic trip to meet China’s leaders (including Premier Zhou Enlai, far left). The journey helped to overcome decades of mistrust between the two countries. After Mao died in 1976, China’s new leaders established reforms that have gradually opened their economy to the world and sparked China’s phenomenal growth.
Even as China embraced Western economic values, it remained a closed, repressive society. But as prosperity began to spread, so did Western ideas like democracy, especially among young people. In the spring of 1989, tens of thousands of Chinese students gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to demand democratic reforms.
The government sent tanks and troops to break up the demonstrations, as the world watched in horror. The army attacked unarmed protesters, with hundreds killed and thousands arrested. The crackdown served as a warning to others who differed with the Communist Party.
Nonetheless, China’s global influence has only grown since then. In January, U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the President of China, Hu Jintao (at left), for a state visit to Washington, D.C. Obama and Hu discussed differences over trade and human rights. Obama also said that the two nations “have an enormous stake in each other’s success.” Still, many Americans are concerned that low wages in China are contributing to job losses in the U.S., as American companies outsource jobs overseas.
2. What happened to China’s farms during the Great Leap Forward? 3. Note the illustration at left. What do you think the artist is saying about Mao, Communism, and China’s influence in the world today? 1. What two major groups vied for power in China in the 1930s? IMAGE SOURCE/AGE FOTOSTOCK; MAP: JIM MCMAHON/MAPMAN; DAVID TURNLEY/CORBIS; BETTMANN/CORBIS; PICTORIAL PRESS LTD/ALAMY; PHOTO12/THE IMAGE WORKS; HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES; BETTMANN/CORBIS; BETTMANN/CORBIS; DAVID TURNLEY/CORBIS; AP IMAGES/JEFF WIDENER; JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/NEWSCOM; TAVIS COBURN