Chiang Kai-shek, who succeeded Sun, became increasingly dictatorial as he sought to modernize China in the mold of liberal Western societies. Although Chiang’s government was corrupt, it created independent schools, a free press, independent courts, and trade unions. Things changed drastically in the 1930s when the Japanese invaded the northern province of Manchuria and later the rest of China on the eve of World War II (1939–1945). When the Japanese retreated in 1945, a civil war between the Nationalists, led by Chiang, and the Communists, who wanted to elimi- nate the class system, engulfed the country. Communist leader Mao Tse-Tung (Mao Zedong) conquered China in 1949. Mao tried in vain to transform life through his Great Leap Forward, an attempt to boost the country’s agricultural and industrial production. He also instituted the Cultural Revolution, seeking to wipe out China’s old customs and ideas while promoting his teachings. Both initiatives failed. After Mao died in 1976, China’s Communist Party opened China up to foreign trade and investment and moved away from a planned economy, the linchpin of Communism. As a result, the government shut down many state- run factories and allowed foreign companies access to the Chinese market. By 2010, China had become the world’s largest exporter of goods and one of the world’s largest economies.

The birthplace of Mao Zedong in Shaoshan, now a tourist destination.



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