China in the 20th Century


By 1898 an enlightened group of reformers had gained access to the young and open-minded Emperor Kuang Hsü. In the summer of that year, prompted by the urgency of the situation created by the new spheres of influence, they instituted a sweeping reform program designed to transform China into a constitutional monarchy and to modernize the economy and the educational system. This program struck at the entrenched power of a clique of Manchu officials appointed by Dowager Empress Cixi (Tz’u Hsi), who had recently retired. Cixi and the Manchu officials seized the emperor, and with the aid of loyal military leaders, put down the reform movement. A period of violent reaction swept the country, reaching its peak in 1900 with the fanatically antiforeign uprising of the secret society of Boxers, a group that enjoyed the support of the dowager empress and many Manchu officials. After a Western expeditionary force had crushed the Boxer Uprising at Beijing, the Manchu government realized the futility of its policy of reaction. In 1902 it adopted its own reform program and made plans to establish a limited constitutional government on the Japanese model. In 1905 the ancient civil service examinations were abandoned.

The hour was late for the Manchus. Shortly after the First Sino-Japanese War the Western-educated Sun Yat-sen had initiated a revolutionary movement dedicated to establishing a republican government. During the first decade of the 20th century the revolutionaries formed a coalition of overseas Chinese students and merchants, and domestic groups dissatisfied with Manchu rule. In mid-1911 uprisings occurred in protest against a Qing railroad nationalization scheme, and in October of that year rebellion broke out at Hankou in central China. As rebellion spread to other provinces, the revolutionary society led by Sun took control. The Manchu armies, reorganized by General Yüan Shih-k’ai, were clearly superior to the rebel forces, but Yüan applied only limited military pressure and negotiated with the rebel leadership for a position as president of a new republican government. On February 12, 1912, Sun Yat-sen stepped down as provisional president in favor of Yüan, and the Manchus submissively retired into oblivion. On February 14, 1912, a revolutionary assembly in Nanjing elected Yüan the first president of the Republic of China.

The Republic of China

The Chinese Republic maintained a tenuous existence from 1912 until 1949. Although a constitution was adopted and a parliament convened in 1912, Yüan Shih-k’ai never allowed these institutions to inhibit his personal control of the government. When the newly formed Kuomintang (Nationalist Party, or KMT), headed by Sun Yat-sen, attempted to limit Yüan’s power, first by parliamentary tactics and then by an unsuccessful revolution in 1913, Yüan responded by dismissing parliament, outlawing the Kuomintang (KMT), and ruling through his personal connections with provincial military leaders. Sun Yat-sen took refuge in Japan. Yüan, however, was forced by popular opposition to abandon his plans to restore the empire and install himself as emperor. He died in 1916, and political power passed to the provincial warlords for more than a decade. The central government retained a precarious and nearly fictional existence until 1927.

During World War I (1914-1918), Japan sought to gain a position of undisputed supremacy in China. In 1915 Japan presented China with the so-called Twenty-one Demands, the terms of which would have reduced China to a virtual Japanese protectorate. China yielded to a modified version of the demands, agreeing, among other concessions, to the transfer of the German holdings in Shandong to Japan. The belated entry of China into the war on the Allied side in 1917 was designed to gain a seat for China at the peace table and a new chance to check Japanese ambitions. China expected that the United States, according to the Open Door Policy, would offer its support. At Versailles, however, President Woodrow Wilson withdrew United States support of China on the Shandong issue when Japan withdrew its demands for a racial-equality clause in the League of Nations Covenant, a provision bitterly opposed in the United States because of the possibility of unlimited influx of labor from Asia. The indignant Chinese delegation refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles. China, however, later gained admission to the league on the basis of a separate peace treaty with Austria.

Chinese youth and intellectuals, who in the previous decade had looked increasingly to the West for models and ideals for the reform of China, were crushed by what they considered Wilson’s betrayal at Versailles. When the news reached China, a mass anti-Japanese protest demonstration, the May Fourth Movement of 1919, erupted at Beijing University and swept through the country.

The Kuomintang and the Rise of the Communist Party

A period of scrutiny and reappraisal followed, from which two clear objectives emerged: to rid China of imperialism and to reestablish national unity. Disillusioned by the cynical self-interest of the Western imperialist powers, the Chinese became more and more interested in the revolutionary changes in Russia and in Marxist-Leninist thought. The Chinese Communist Party organized in Shanghai in 1921, numbering among its original members Mao Zedong. In 1923 Sun Yat-sen agreed to accept Soviet advice in reorganizing the crumbling Kuomintang and its feeble military forces. At the same time he agreed to admit Communists to Kuomintang membership. Sun’s basic ideology, the Three Principles of Nationalism, Democracy, and Socialism, were charged with the spirit of anti-imperialism and national unification. Despite Sun’s death in 1925, the rejuvenated Kuomintang, under the leadership of the young general Chiang Kai-shek, launched a military expedition from its base in Guangzhou in 1926. Chiang sought to reunify China under Kuomintang rule and rid the country of imperialists and warlords. Before the Kuomintang completed the nominal reunification of China early in 1928, however, Chiang conducted a bloody purge of the party’s Communist membership, and from then on he relied upon support from the propertied classes and the foreign treaty powers.

Chiang’s Problems

The new national government that the Kuomintang established at Nanjing in 1928 was faced with three problems of overpowering magnitude. First, Chiang had actually brought only five provinces under his control. The remainder of the country was still governed by local warlords. Second, by the early 1930s he was confronted with an internal Communist rebellion. The Chinese Communists, after being purged from the Kuomintang in 1927, split into two factions and went underground. One faction attempted to foment urban uprisings; the other, headed by Mao Zedong, took to the countryside of central China, where it mobilized peasant support, formed a peasant army, and set up several soviet governments. The first faction eventually joined Mao in central China. Third, Chiang’s new government was faced with Japanese aggression in North and Northeast China.

During the 1920s Japan had moderated its policy toward China. At the Washington Naval Conference of 1922, it had agreed to return the former German holdings in Shandong to China. After 1928, however, militant Kuomintang nationalism clashed with Japanese imperialist interests over the latter’s control of the South Manchurian Railway. On September 18, 1931, the Japanese seized on an alleged nationalist bombing of the railway to extend their military control over all Manchuria. The following spring the Japanese transformed the three provinces of Manchuria into the new state of Manchukuo and later made Henry Pu Yi, the last ruler of the Manchu dynasty as Emperor Xuantong (Hsüan-t’ung), its chief of state. Early in 1933 eastern Inner Mongolia was incorporated into Manchukuo. By mid-1933, Japan had extracted from China an agreement for the demilitarization of northeastern Hebei.

The Sian Incident

In dealing with these three problems during the 1930s, Chiang Kai-shek negotiated with the domestic warlords and temporized with the Japanese, giving priority to the suppression of the Communist rebellion. Late in 1934, he succeeded in dislodging the Red Army from its base in central China, but the Communists fought their way across China to the west and then north on the so-called Long March, which terminated in Shaanxi Province in the north. By 1936 they had established a new base at Yan’an. As Japanese aggression intensified, popular pressure mounted for the Chinese to stop fighting among themselves and to unite against Japan. Chiang, however, resisted until late 1936, when he was kidnapped by one of his own generals. During his captivity at Xi’an he was visited by Communist leaders, who urged the adoption of a common policy toward Japan. After his release he moderated his anti-Communist stand, and in 1937 a Kuomintang-Communist united front was formed against the Japanese.

World War II

In 1937 Japan and China were plunged into full-scale war as a result of a skirmish at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing. By 1938 Japan had seized control of most of northeast China, the Yangtze Valley as far inland as Hankou, and the area around Guangzhou on the southeast coast. The Kuomintang moved its capital and most of its military force inland to Chongqing in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

During World War II (1939-1945), the Kuomintang government in Chongqing suffered serious military and financial debilitation while the Communists, with their headquarters at Yan’an, significantly expanded their territorial bases, military forces, and party membership. After serious losses of men and equipment were sustained during the battle for eastern China in 1937 and 1938, the ranks of the Kuomintang armies were replenished by inadequately trained recruits. The reequipping of these armies, for the most part, had to be delayed until 1945, when the first large-scale shipments of U.S. military equipment reached the Nationalist government. Not only were the military forces of the Kuomintang government drastically weakened after 1938, but also the leadership was rent by factionalism. These problems were compounded by a condition of severe inflation that began in 1939, when the government, cut off from its main sources of income in Japanese-occupied eastern China, turned to the printing presses to finance the mounting costs of wartime operations. Despite substantial U.S. financial aid, the inflationary trend worsened with a consequent growth in official corruption, loss of morale in the armed forces, and alienation of the civilian populace.

The Communists, on the other hand, fanned out from Yan’an, occupying much of North China and infiltrating many of the rural areas behind Japanese lines. There they skillfully organized the peasantry in their support and built up the ranks of the Communist Party and the Red Army. Unity and organizational discipline were maintained through a vigorous campaign of propaganda and thought reform. Large stockpiles of captured Japanese weapons and ammunition were turned over to the Communists by the Soviet forces that occupied Manchuria after the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945. As a result, the Communists emerged from World War II a far larger, stronger, better-disciplined, and better-equipped force than before.

The Kuomintang-Communist Fight for Supremacy

In 1945, shortly after Japan surrendered, fighting broke out between Communist and Kuomintang troops over the reoccupation of Manchuria. A temporary truce was reached in 1946 through the mediation of the U.S. General George C. Marshall. Although fighting was soon resumed, Marshall continued his efforts to bring the two sides together. In August 1946 the United States tried to strengthen Marshall’s hand as an impartial mediator by suspending its military aid to the Nationalist government. Nevertheless, hostilities continued, and in January 1947, convinced of the futility of further mediation, Marshall left China. The conflict quickly blossomed into full-scale civil war, and all hope of political rapprochement disappeared. In May 1947, U.S. aid to the Kuomintang was resumed. However, the government forces were wearied by two decades of nearly continuous warfare, the leadership was rent by internal disunity, and the economy was paralyzed by spiraling inflation. In 1948 military initiative passed to the Communists, and in the summer of 1949, Nationalist resistance collapsed. The government, with the forces it could salvage, sought refuge on the island of Taiwan.

In September 1949 the Communists convened the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an ad hoc quasi-constituent body of 662 members, which adopted a set of guiding principles and an organic law for governing the country. The conference elected the Central People’s Government Council, which was to serve as the supreme policymaking organ of the state while the conference was not in session. Mao Zedong, who served as chairman of this body, was, in fact, head of state. In accordance with the powers delegated to it by the conference, the Central People’s Government Council set up the various organs of the central and local governments. At the national level, the Government Administrative Council headed by Zhou Enlai performed both the legislative and executive functions of government. Subordinate to the council were more than 30 ministries and commissions charged with the conduct of various aspects of state affairs. The new regime, called the People’s Republic of China, was officially proclaimed on October 1, 1949.

The People’s Republic

In 1953, after Communist control had been firmly established in most localities, the Central People’s Government Council initiated the election of people’s congresses at the local level. These, in turn, elected congresses at the next highest administrative level. A hierarchy of elected congresses was completed in 1954 with the election of the National People’s Congress, which approved the draft constitution submitted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

The 1954 constitution, which replaced the Organic Law of 1949 as the basic law of the land, confirmed the hegemony of the Chinese Communist Party and introduced limited structural change designed to centralize government control. This charter was later superseded by others.

The Transformation of Society


The basic policy of the Communist government was to transform China into a socialist society. To this end Marxist-Leninist education and propaganda were employed extensively. Youths were directed to look to the party and the state rather than to their families for leadership and security. Women were assured a position of equality by new marriage laws that banned concubinage, polygamy, sale of children, and interference with the remarriage of widows and ensured equal rights with respect to employment, ownership of property, and divorce. Religion was strictly controlled; foreign missionaries were forced to leave; and Chinese clerics, disposed to cooperate with the Communists, were placed over the Christian churches. Intellectuals were subjected to a specialized program of thought reform directed toward eradicating anti-Communist ideas.

In the first years of the Communist republic the government also resorted to terror in its efforts to eliminate all opposition and potential enemies. In 1951 Beijing authorities stated that between October 1949 and October 1950, more than 1 million so-called counterrevolutionaries were executed. Some foreign authorities estimated that the figure came close to 2 million at the end of 1951.

Economic Policy

The first task of the Communists was to reconstruct the economy, which had been disrupted by decades of domestic warfare. They immediately instituted severe measures to check inflation, restore communications, and reestablish the domestic order necessary for economic development. Their basic economic policy was the step-by-step organization of the farmers into agricultural collectives in order to promote efficiency and create the savings necessary for the establishment of heavy industry. Private industry was gradually brought under joint state-private ownership and state control through a series of programs involving state seizure of a controlling interest, through reform and intimidation of some owners, and through fixed compensatory payment to others whose expertise the state was anxious to enlist. Land reform was started in 1950 and was followed by the formation of mutual-aid teams, cooperatives, and collective farms. The first five-year plan, initiated in 1953 and carried out with Soviet assistance, emphasized heavy industry at the expense of consumer goods. Soviet aid and technical advice contributed greatly to the early success of the program.

Foreign Policy

Chinese foreign policy reflected the unity of the Communist movement in the 1950s. China and the USSR signed a treaty of friendship and alliance in 1950, and in supplementary agreements, concluded in 1952 and 1954, the USSR made major concessions to China, including the abrogation of Soviet privileges in Northeast China. China also pursued close relations with its smaller Communist neighbors. During the Korean War (1950-1953) Chinese troops aided the Communist regime of North Korea against UN forces. After a truce was concluded in 1953, the Chinese accelerated the flow of military aid to Communist insurgents fighting the French in Vietnam. Zhou Enlai played an important role in negotiating the Geneva Agreements of 1954 that ended the hostilities.

On coming to power, the Communist regime also attempted to regain areas it considered to be within the historic boundaries of China. In 1950 Chinese troops invaded Tibet and forced the mountain country to accept Chinese rule. In August 1954, Zhou Enlai officially declared that the liberation of Taiwan was one of his principal objectives, and Chiang Kai-shek also refused to accept the status quo, asserting from time to time his intention of reconquering the mainland. In early September the Communists began an artillery bombardment of the Chinmen (Quemoy), held by the Republic of China government on Taiwan, and later attacked other islands off the coast of mainland China, including Matsu and the Tachens. Taiwan retaliated with air and naval raids against the mainland. When the Communists intensified their offensive against the islands in 1955, Taiwan, with the help of the United States Seventh Fleet, evacuated the Tachens. Since 1958 a cease-fire in the straits has been generally observed by both sides, although the Communist regime has never forsworn the use of force to capture Taiwan.

The Great Leap Forward

The caution and planning that went into the first five-year plan were to a large extent abandoned in the second, which began in 1958. More rigid controls were imposed on the economy in order to increase agricultural production, restrict consumption, and speed up industrialization. The slogan of the plan was to effect a Great Leap Forward. Largely because of poor direction and inadequate planning, the program miscarried. The economy became badly disorganized, and industrial production dropped by as much as 50 percent between 1959 and 1962.

Growing Isolation

Matters were made worse in 1960 by the withdrawal of Soviet economic assistance and technical advice. As the USSR moved toward peaceful coexistence with the West, ideological differences developed between the two leading Communist powers. Their alliance deteriorated rapidly in the early 1960s, and in 1962 China openly condemned the USSR for withdrawing its missiles from Cuba under pressure from the United States, maintaining that aggression and revolution were the only means to achieve the basic Communist purpose of overthrowing capitalism. In particular, the Chinese accused Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev of modern revisionism and betrayal of Marxist-Leninist ideals. As a result, the USSR no longer actively financed the economic development of China. The Chinese began to compete openly with the USSR for leadership of the Communist bloc and for influence among the neutral nations. Zhou Enlai toured Asia and Africa in 1963 to gain support for the Chinese view.

Diplomatic efforts to gain friendship, however, were hampered by Chinese irredentism and subversive tactics. In 1959 Chinese troops penetrated and occupied some 31,000 sq km (about 12,000 sq mi) of territory claimed by India. Negotiations between the two countries proved inconclusive, and serious fighting erupted again in 1962, when Chinese troops advanced across the claimed Indian borders. Although the Chinese subsequently withdrew the troops to their 1959 positions, the aggression lowered China’s prestige among the neutral nations of Asia and Africa. In Southeast Asia, the Chinese Communists lent their moral support as well as technical and material assistance to Communist-led insurgency movements in Laos and Vietnam. In addition, the active part played by Chinese embassy officials in fomenting Communist revolution resulted in their 1965 expulsion from Indonesia, where the large Chinese overseas population absorbed the full impact of Beijing’s unpopularity, suffering enormous loss of life and property. Burma (now Myanmar) and Cambodia, although remaining on friendly terms with China, still continued their close relations with the Soviet Union. Only Albania remained an unquestioning ally of China.

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

As the Communists struggled to remake Chinese society, differences appeared between Mao, who favored a pure Communist ideology, and intellectuals, professional people, and bureaucrats, who wanted a more rational, moderate approach encouraging efficiency and productivity. In May 1956, party leaders concerned over their inability to command the unquestioning loyalty of the influential intellectual class launched a campaign advising the Chinese to "let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." Educated Chinese were urged to air their complaints so that problems might be identified and resolved. In early 1957 Mao himself broadened the campaign, inviting free criticism of all government policies. It was assumed, of course, that such criticism would still be within the Communist framework. Such an unexpected torrent of dissatisfaction fell on party leaders, however, that in June 1957 strict controls on freedom of expression were reimposed.

Widening Division

Thereafter the division between Mao and the moderates widened. In 1959 he retired as head of state and was succeeded by the moderate Liu Shaoqi; he retained the party chairmanship, however. Mao’s influence was further diminished by the economic failures of the Great Leap Forward. The division became a public struggle in 1966, when Mao and his supporters launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution to eradicate the remains of so-called bourgeois ideas and customs and to recapture the revolutionary zeal of early Chinese communism. Mao also wanted to weaken the party bureaucracy, now entrenched in privilege, and modernize the educational system to benefit rural and manual laborers.

Students calling themselves Red Guards, joined by groups of workers, peasants, and demobilized soldiers, took to the streets in pro-Maoist, sometimes violent, demonstrations. They made intellectuals, bureaucrats, party officials, and urban workers their chief targets. The central party structure was destroyed as many high officials, including head of state Liu, were deprived of their positions and expelled from the party. Schools were closed and the economy disrupted.

International Tension

During 1967 and 1968 bloody fighting between Maoists and anti-Maoists, and among various Red Guard factions, took thousands of lives. In some areas rebellion deteriorated into anarchy. Finally the army, led by Mao’s close associate Lin Biao, was called in to restore order. The Red Guards were sent back to school or to labor in remote areas.

The Cultural Revolution had an adverse effect on foreign relations. The Red Guard inspired riots in Hong Kong that caused economic and social chaos. Pro-Red Guard propaganda and agitation by overseas Chinese strained relations with many states, especially the USSR, and a successful Chinese hydrogen-bomb test in 1967 did nothing to allay Soviet apprehension. Tension between the two powers mounted further as China accused Soviet leaders of imperialism after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In 1969 China attacked augmented Soviet border guards on the Ussuri River, creating an explosive situation.

The Last Years Under Mao

Mao emerged victorious during the Cultural Revolution and was greatly honored. More diversity was allowed, however, and real power was held by others. The Ninth Party Congress in April 1969 attempted to reestablish the party’s central organization. Mao was reelected party chairman with much fanfare, and Defense Minister Lin Biao, Mao’s personal choice, was named his eventual successor. The most influential figures, however, were not Maoists but moderates—high military officials, followers of Lin Biao, or men of pragmatic policies such as Premier Zhou Enlai.

A power struggle in 1971 resulted in the disappearance from public life of Lin, who was later accused of plotting to assassinate Mao and was said to have died in an airplane crash. Zhou rose in prominence. The Tenth Party Congress, held in August 1973, expunged from the constitution the name of Lin as Mao’s successor. The positions of Mao and Zhou remained unchallenged. Mao’s commitment to mobilization of the masses and his deep-seated distrust of bureaucracy were expressed in 1973 and 1974 in a new thought-reform campaign attacking both Confucianism and Lin Biao. Mao’s radical thought was reflected in a new, greatly simplified national constitution adopted by the Fourth National People’s Congress in January 1975; but the moderate Deng Xiaoping, a rehabilitated victim of the Cultural Revolution, was named deputy to Premier Zhou.

During this period China’s foreign relations improved dramatically. In 1971 it was admitted to the United Nations, replacing the Republic of China (Taiwan). In 1972 U.S. President Richard M. Nixon made an official visit to China, during which he agreed to the need for Sino-United States contacts and the eventual withdrawal of United States troops from Taiwan. As a step toward full diplomatic relations, liaison offices were set up in Beijing and Washington in 1973. Diplomatic relations with Japan were established in 1972.

Mao’s Successors

Premier Zhou and Chairman Mao both died in 1976, leaving a power vacuum. Zhou’s death precipitated a struggle for power between moderate and radical leaders. The radicals scored an early victory by preventing the moderate first deputy premier, Deng Xiaoping, from being chosen premier and then having him ousted from his government and party posts. As a compromise, Hua Guofeng, an administrator without close ties to either faction, became premier. Under Hua, moderate policies prevailed. Consolidating his position, he had the Gang of Four—as moderates called Mao’s widow Jiang Qing, and three other leading radicals—arrested and charged with assorted crimes. About the same time he was named to succeed Mao as party chairman.

Hua then concentrated on stabilizing politics, aiding recovery from earthquakes that had devastated Tangshan and other parts of the north in July 1976, and fostering economic development. To carry out his program he appointed moderate officials to high positions. In 1977 Deng was reinstated as first deputy premier and also in his other posts. The Gang of Four was expelled from the party.

The emphasis on moderation in politics and modernization in government was reflected in the Fifth National People’s Congress, which met in February and March 1978. Hua was reelected premier, with Deng as first deputy premier.

Foreign Relations

As these internal adjustments were being made, relations with Vietnam began to show strain. To China’s chagrin, Soviet influence in Vietnam was growing, and the policy of closing down private businesses in the newly won South was most acutely felt by the Chinese minority. The result was an exodus of ethnic Chinese who streamed into southern China, clogging its welfare facilities; by July 1978 China felt compelled to close its borders. When Vietnam further invaded Cambodia and toppled that country’s Chinese-backed government in January 1979, China retaliated; in February it sent troops into Vietnam. Although the forces were withdrawn in early March, the Vietnamese now regarded their remaining Chinese minority as unwelcome and put pressure on them to leave. Hundreds of thousands set off by sea, often in overloaded, rickety boats, and although many reached safety in other countries, as many are thought to have perished. The plight of the boat people became an international concern.

Apprehensive of Soviet-Vietnamese encirclement, China enhanced its foreign contacts. Full diplomatic relations were established with the United States in January 1979 and a trade agreement was made in July. Closer ties were also forged with Japan and Western Europe.

Aging Leadership

Deng Xiaoping was the dominant figure in China throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, retaining behind-the-scenes influence even as he steadily surrendered his public titles. Eager to expand trade and industry by attracting foreign investment, Deng and China’s other aging leaders took a far less dogmatic stance on economic policy than on political questions.

In 1980 Hua Guofeng resigned the premiership and was succeeded by Zhao Ziyang, a Deng supporter. Early in 1981, after a trial that was extensively publicized in China, all the members of the Gang of Four were convicted and imprisoned. In June another of Deng’s allies, Hu Yaobang, replaced Hua as party leader. A new national constitution and a new Communist Party constitution were adopted in 1982. The former revived the largely ceremonial office of president (previously state chairman), which had been abolished by Mao in 1968.

In January 1987 Zhao Ziyang was named acting general secretary of the Communist Party and Hu Yaobang was forced to resign. The leadership changes came after a wave of student demonstrations calling for increased democratization and freedom of expression. Hu’s death in April 1989 sparked a new wave of pro-democracy demonstrations, which swelled in May when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited Beijing to end the 30-year rift between the USSR and China. The protesters occupied Beijing’s Tian’an Men Square until the morning of June 4, when armored troops stormed the city center, killing hundreds of unarmed civilians (see Tian’an Men Square Protest). In the ensuing political crackdown, Zhao Ziyang resigned his party posts, Jiang Zemin became general secretary, and Li Peng, premier. In March 1993 Jiang also became president. Deng died in February 1997, although unlike the turmoil caused by Mao’s death in 1976, China’s political climate remained calm. On July 1, 1997, the British territory of Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.