- Archaeological evidence of human habitation in China dates back to at least 500,000 years ago.
- 2070–256 BCE: Early dynasties include the Xia (2070–1600 BC), the Shang (1600–1050 BC), and the Zhou (1050–256 BCE).
- 1050–256 BCE: The Zhou period is marked by the development of a feudal system and the rise of a merchant class.
- 475–221 BCE: The Warring States period is characterised by constant conflict between the various states.
- 221–206 BCE: The First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, emerges as the victor and establishes the Qin dynasty. Qin Shi Huang goes on to build the first Great Wall.
- 206 BCE–220 CE: The Han dynasty sees the continuation of the centralised imperial system established by the Qin. The Han period is also characterised by territorial expansion and the development of a bureaucratic system.
- 220–280: The Three Kingdoms period is marked by the fragmentation of the Han empire into three independent states.
- 581–681: The Sui dynasty reunites China and establishes the Grand Canal, connecting the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers.
- 618–907: The Tang dynasty is a golden age of Chinese civilisation, marked by economic growth, cultural flowering, and territorial expansion.
- 960–1279: The Song dynasty sees the development of a sophisticated culture and economy and the introduction of gunpowder and movable type printing.
- 1279–1368: The Mongol conqueror Kublai Khan establishes the Yuan dynasty and sees China form part of a vast empire stretching from Europe to Asia.
Late Imperial China
- 1368–1644: The Ming dynasty sees the restoration of native Chinese rule and the expansion of maritime trade.
- 16th century: Portuguese traders arrive in China and establish Macau as a Portuguese colony.
- 1644–1912: The Manchu-led Qing dynasty is the last imperial dynasty in China, whose rule is marked by territorial expansion, cultural exchange, and population growth.
- 19th century: The Qing dynasty is in decline, leading to a rise in regional warlords as the central government's power dwindles. Western nations also enact treaties enabling foreign concessions development in China's ports.
- 1839–1842: The First Opium War marks the beginning of China's "Century of Humiliation" at the hands of foreign powers.
- 1850–1864: The Taiping Rebellion, a rebellion against the Qing dynasty, leaves around 20 million dead.
- 1899–1901: The Boxer Rebellion is an anti-foreigner, anti-colonial and anti-Christian movement that was ultimately crushed by an international coalition of armies.
- 1911: The Xinhai Revolution overthrows the Qing dynasty and establishes the Republic of China. The following years are marked by political turmoil and warlordism.
- 1921: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is established and gradually gains control over much of the country during the 1920s and 1930s.
- 1931–1945: Japan invades China and occupies parts of the country, leading to a brutal war that lasts until 1945.
- 1949: The People's Republic of China is established under communist rule and led by Mao Zedong following the defeat of the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War.
- 1950s: Mao launched the Great Leap Forward, a massive economic and social campaign to modernise China. The programme leads to widespread famine and economic failure.
- 1966–1976: Mao launches the Cultural Revolution, a radical political and social campaign to purge the country of counter-revolutionary forces. The revolution leads to widespread violence, economic disruption, and cultural destruction.
- 1976: Mao dies, and Deng Xiaoping becomes the country's de facto leader.
- 1980s: Deng Xiaoping launches a series of economic reforms to modernise and grow China's economy. The country becomes a major manufacturing centre for the world.
- 1989: The Tiananmen Square protests occur in Beijing, as students and intellectuals demand political and economic reforms. The Chinese government uses force to quash the protests, killing hundreds to thousands of people based on historical estimates.
- 1990s: China continues to grow economically, joining the World Trade Organization in 2001.
- 1997: Hong Kong's sovereignty passes from the UK to China, establishing the 'one country, two systems' policy.
- 2000s: China becomes the world's second-largest economy and begins to play a significant role in international politics and economics. The country also faces growing social and environmental problems, including air pollution, corruption and income inequality.
- 2003: China and Hong Kong are hit by a SARS outbreak, and the country enforces a quarantine to stop the spread of the virus.
- 2008: China hosts the 2008 Olympic Games, and in the same year, Astronaut Zhai Zhigang completes the country's first spacewalk, showcasing its development as a world power.
- 2010s: China continues to grow economically and politically and begins to assert itself as a major power in the world. The country faces increasing criticism from the international community for its human rights record and territorial claims in the South China Sea.
- 2018: The Communist Party abolishes the constitution's two-term limit for presidency, making way for Xi Jinping to become China's ruler for life.
- 2018–present: The US–China trade war sees the US banning the sale and import of communications equipment from five Chinese companies, including Huawei and ZTE. The US government also prohibits federal employees from downloading the popular Chinese social media app TikTok on all federal devices and systems.
- 2019: The Covid–19 virus is detected in Wuhan in late 2019, setting off an ongoing global pandemic. China implements the widely criticised zero-Covid policy, which sees millions locked down in their homes and quarantine centres throughout the country.
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