The Chinese civilization that emerged from the obscurity of prehistory 3,500 years ago was an already highly developed Bronze Age culture on the middle course of the Yellow River on the edge of the northern Chinese plains. Other cultural centers may have been located in the Upper Yangtze Valley and closer to the sea north of present-day Beijing.
For most of its long history, China lived in isolation from other advanced civilizations. The Chinese therefore came to see their country as the center of civilization and culture – the Middle Kingdom (Zhongguo). Other peoples were perceived as barbarians. Unaware of other high cultures, the Chinese, like the Europeans, believed themselves to be superior to the outside world.
Two great philosophers, both active in the fifth century BC, gave rise to different traditions that run through China’s culture from ancient times to the present: Confucianism and Daoism.
Confucius, who devoted most of his life to teaching, developed his philosophy during conversations with his disciples. Part of Confucius’ discussion with the disciples has been gathered in Conversations with K, which is considered one of Confucianism’s classic works. In Confucius’ teaching, order, stability and harmony are valued above all. It is a given that subordinates are loyal to their superiors, that the wife obeys the husband, the son obeys his father, that the younger obeys the older, and that all obey the emperor, whose commands have almost divine weight. Confucianism attaches great importance to diligence, virtue and strong family ties. Much of this legacy of thought lives on in today’s Chinese society.
Daoism was created according to legend by the thinker Lao Zi, the Old Master, who lived shortly before Confucius. It is uncertain, however, whether he has existed at all. The doctrine rejects material striving, dissatisfaction and lust and advocates that man should withdraw from the alarms of the world. Daoism has inspired a popular Chinese literary tradition, which created poetic masterpieces.
The Book of Songs (Shijing) is a famous anthology of poems, compiled in the 500s BC. Subsequent dynasties have all left important imprints in Chinese literature. But more famous in the West are the Ming Dynasty’s (1368–1644) novels: The Three Kingdoms, Stories from the Swamps, Golden Lotus and the Qing Dynasty’s great literary work The Dream in the Red Pavilion.
A variety of sensational archaeological finds give China a prominent place on the world map of culture. Qin Emperor Shi Huangdi’s (221-210 BC) underground giant armies at Xian, with thousands of life-size clay soldiers, the Ming Emperors’ mighty tombs north of Beijing and many other sights reminiscent of the country’s grand past.
Paper, silk, porcelain, compasses, seismographs and gunpowder are just some of China’s diverse contributions to humanity. Paper began to be made in China as early as the 20th century and did not reach Europe until about a thousand years later.
Literature had a heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, when many writers began to write in everyday spoken language instead of old written language. But Mao Zedong’s 1942 directive that “all literature must serve the purposes of the party” subsequently hampered the authors. During the Cultural Revolution of 1966–1976, all art, literature and music that did not serve the party and communism were banned.
Even after the beginning of the reform policy in 1978, ideological austerity has changed with greater artistic freedom. The new Chinese film has gained world fame thanks to directors such as Zhang Yimou (The Red Field, Ju Dou – Forbidden Love, The Red Lantern with Multiple Films) and Chen Kaige (The King of Children, The Yellow Earth with Multiple Films). Jia Zhangke’s film Still life about the dam construction Three ravines (see Natural resources and energy) won the 2006 award for best film at the Venice Film Festival. In 2014, the thriller Black Coal, Thin Ice by director Diao Yinan Guldbjörnen won at the Berlin Film Festival.
In 2000, a Chinese man received the Nobel Prize in Literature for the first time. Gao Xingjian, whose most famous works are the novels The Mountain of the Spirits and The Bible of a Lonely Man, has been living in France since 1988 as a political refugee. In his home country, his books are banned. In 2012, another Chinese, Mo Yan, who is active in the country, received the award.
During the 1990s and 2000s, many female writers received attention. Several of them were born in the 1960s and 1970s and depict the wild life of the young restless generation in Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities. Other internationally acclaimed contemporary Chinese writers include Yu Hua, Han Shaogong, Yang Lianke, and Su Tong.
Increased tensions between China and India in the Himalayas
Since mid-May, Indian media have reported that hundreds, according to some sources, several thousand, Chinese soldiers have entered Indian Ladakh at the disputed border between India and China in the Himalayas. Soldiers from both sides have been involved in screen arrests on some occasions. Both countries are now reported to have carried heavy artillery and other military equipment to the border area. Tensions have increased between countries in the area since India in August 2019 divided the state of Jammu-Kashmir into federally controlled Ladakh as well as Jammu and Kashmir. India believes that the China-controlled region of Aksai Chin is part of Ladakh. According to the Chinese-language daily Global Times, India’s construction of a new highway to a military base in the area has worried Beijing, which has therefore moved troops here. Diplomatic talks are held between the countries to find a solution to the tense situation. At a meeting between the two countries’ army chiefs in early June, the parties agreed to resolve the conflict peacefully in accordance with already enteredbilateral agreements. In May, a border dispute was also reported between the two countries of the Indian state of Sikkim, which caused Chinese and Indian soldiers to be injured after stone-throwing and fighting.
- Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of China, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Beijing wants to introduce security law in Hong Kong
At the National People’s Congress annual session, held in late May after being postponed in March due to the corona pandemic, a plan to introduce national security law in Hong Kong is approved. Article 23 of the Hong Kong Constitution (Basic Law) requires such legislation to be enacted which, among other things, prohibits treason, terrorism, rioting and separatism. The issue is controversial in Hong Kong and when the Hong Kong government tried to enforce the legislation in 2003 it led to mass demonstrations which then led to it being put on ice. According to the central government in Beijing, it is the mass demonstrations of recent months combined with the fact that the Hong Kong government itself failed to introduce security legislation that is behind the decision to intervene to enforce the legislation. The law will now be drafted and then adopted by the Hong Kong Legislative Assembly. Clearly, it will allow Chinese security services to openly intervene to stave off violent demonstrations and independence efforts in Hong Kong. Democracy activists believe the security laws mean the end of “One country, two systems” – the principle that governs the relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland. There is strong concern that the Hong Kongborn’s human rights will be threatened. The US response to China’s hard line to Hong Kong is to announce that the region is no longer considered to have a special status, which includes favorable trade agreements.
China names islands in disputed archipelagos
Around 80 islands, reefs and underwater cliffs in the Paracel and Spratelli groups have been given their own names, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Interior have announced. Several other countries around the South China Sea claim these island groups and over the last decade tensions have increased (see China: Foreign Policy and Defense). Vietnam protests against the Chinese naming and claims it violates the country’s territorial sovereignty. A few days earlier, Beijing has also announced that both islands will be administered under two newly formed districts under the city of Sansha in Hainan Province.
Fifteen democracy activists are arrested in Hong Kong
Hong Kong police arrest fifteen people suspected of organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations last year between August and October. Some of them are being investigated for passing on information about the demonstrations through various media. Among the activists arrested are not only young Hong Kong residents in their 20s to 30s, but also 70s and 80s opposition politicians. The mass demonstrations that have shaken the city since the summer of 2019 have improved since the corona virus began to spread in Hong Kong at the beginning of the year. But judges believe the arrests can breach the protests, not least because the Beijing central government is pushing for the Hong Kong leadership to adopt new security legislation in the area. In previous attempts to introduce such laws in Hong Kong in 2003, it led to widespread protests, which led to plans being laid on ice.
Wuhan revises figures on dead in covid-19
The Wuhan Infection Protection Agency provides new information on the number of deaths in covid-19. According to these, twice as many have died in the disease than previously reported – a total of 3868, which is 1 290 more deaths. As a result, 4,632 have died throughout the country. China has been accused by, among other things, US President Donald Trump of darkening how many people have actually died of the disease. However, according to China’s foreign ministry, no such thing has happened. The incorrect death figures have instead been, among other things, a backlog in reporting and mistakes by hospital staff who have been hard pressed.
No new deaths in covid-19
According to China’s national health authority, for the first time since the transmission of infection and death in the new corona virus began in January, no new deaths to report. At the same time, however, the number of infected people has started to rise again, which is reportedly due to the fact that residents in the country brought the infection with them. About 1,000 people are reported to be carrying the corona virus, some of them without any symptoms.
China helps the EU with virus equipment
According to Abbreviationfinder, China has promised to send large amounts of medical supplies to EU countries to assist in the fight against the corona epidemic. According to Prime Minister Li Keqiang, the country is ready to assist with kits for sampling, face masks and other protective equipment. The multi-billionaire Jack Mas e-commerce company Alibaba has also donated over one million respiratory protection to France and Spain.
American journalists are expelled
Beijing announces that three US journalists will be expelled. They work for the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. According to the Chinese leadership, the deportation is a response to Washington’s recent limitation on the number of Chinese allowed to work for Chinese state-controlled media in the US. Already last month, China carried out another deportation, when three journalists from the Wall Street Journal were allowed to leave the country after the newspaper published a Beijing-critical debate article. At that time, a dispute had also flared up with the US leadership since state-controlled Chinese media in the United States had been redefined to be regarded as foreign missions. Beijing’s expulsions of journalists have been condemned by press freedom organizations. Check Zhengsourcing for how to import from China.
Xi visits Wuhan after the corona crisis
About three months after the first cases of a new coronavirus were discovered in Wuhan city, it is visited by President Xi. He thanks the residents for their great sacrifices during the time when the city was kept isolated and forced to stay at home. Xi’s visit is interpreted by observers as a signal that the outbreak of covid-19, which has harmed 4,600 lives and resulted in 126,000 becoming ill, is now on the verge of misery in the country. The fact that China seems to be on its way out of the crisis is highlighted by the communist regime as a victory. It is keen to emphasize the importance of being able to act so decisively and swiftly and to implement restrictions to prevent the spread of infection, which, it is argued, succeeded precisely because of the authoritarian system. But China is also praised by the World Health Organization (WHO) for its resolute handling of the crisis.
Gui Minhai sentenced to ten years in prison
A Ningbo court sentenced Gui Minhai to the Swedish-Chinese publisher to ten years in prison for providing information to foreign powers. According to the court, Gui Minhai has given up her Swedish citizenship and applied to become a Chinese citizen 2018 again (see also January and February 2018). After the verdict, the Swedish government again demands that Gui Minhai be released and that representatives of Sweden should meet with him to give him consular assistance. According to Sweden, Gui Minhai is still a Swedish citizen because the issue of citizenship has not been tried by the Swedish Migration Board. But Beijing no longer wants to discuss the case with Sweden because its legislation does not allow dual citizenship and Gui Minhai will no longer be considered a Swedish citizen, they claim.
Senior officials are dismissed after the corona virus
As criticism has recently grown against the Chinese authorities’ handling of the new corona virus, which was renamed covid-19, high-ranking officials are being fired especially in the province of Hubei but also in other parts of China. It is important that these have in different ways misunderstood their areas of responsibility based on current regulations and not least that they have failed to act in time to stop the spread of infection and warn residents. The party secretary in Hubei Province is forced to leave his post, as is the party secretary in the city of Wuhan. A few days earlier, the senior management of Hubei’s health authority was also fired. The number of those infected by the virus in China is now over 42,000, while 1,350 people have died.
Doctors who warned of corona die
Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang dies after being ill for some time in covid-19. The news of his death raises strong reactions to, among other things, the social media platform weibo, including demands for freedom of expression. Many Chinese have been upset by Li Wenliang being interrogated and punished by police at the end of last year after he warned former study buddies about new disease cases in a group chat where the symptoms were similar to those that occurred in SARS. At the beginning of the year, Li Wenliang himself became ill in covid-19 after being infected by a patient. Wuhan authorities have been criticized for not taking the whistleblowers seriously, which could have reduced the spread of infection. According to a state investigation into the case, released in mid-March, Wuhan police “acted improperly” when it punished Li Wenliang by issuing a written warning after he published information on Weibo about the disease. The Wuhan police apologize publicly after the investigation results became known.
WHO classifies the corona virus as a global health hazard
At a meeting, the World Health Organization decides that the corona virus should be seen as an international danger to human health. At the same time, the organization does not want countries to impose “unnecessary” restrictions on travel and trade. According to the Chinese authorities, 213 people have now been confirmed dead and over 9,600 infected. More people have thus been infected than during the epidemic of another coronavirus, Sars, 2003–2004. At the same time, mortality was higher in Sars than in the current corona virus. Cases of the disease have now been identified in several countries in Southeast Asia as well as in the USA, Canada, Russia and in some European countries including Germany, France, Italy, Finland and Sweden.
Large cities are closed down due to coronavirus
Over 800 people in China have been infected by a virus that affects the respiratory tract and can, among other things, lead to severe pneumonia. At least 25 people have died from the corona virus, which was first discovered in a seafood and meat market in the city of Wuhan, China, and which has now spread to other parts of China and even in some cases to several other countries. The spread of the virus coincides with the fact that many Chinese start traveling before the Chinese New Year, when many Chinese visit family and relatives in other parts of the country. Authorities are trying to prevent the spread of infection by canceling flights, trains and bus journeys in several cities in the province of Hubei. At least 20 million people are affected by the travel restrictions. In addition, public New Year celebrations have been canceled in Beijing, Shanghai and Macao, while the Forbidden City of Beijing is closed.
Former head of Interpol sentenced to prison
Meng Hongwei, the former head of the global police organization Interpol who was arrested during a trip in China 2018, is sentenced to 13 years in prison. Meng, who was highly regarded within the party apparatus in China, lived in France where Interpol is based. According to the judgment, he has received bribes. Meng’s wife and children have been granted political asylum in France. The arrest of Meng Hongwei is reported by the security service as part of the comprehensive investigation into the influential Zhou Yongkang (see October 2018, July 2014) and the attempts to reach those who were part of his former circle.
The US and China sign trade agreements
The two trade giants China and the United States sign an agreement on a first step to resolve the conflict between them. The partners agreed on the so-called Phase 1 agreement in mid-December 2019. The agreement meant that the new tariffs that the United States would have imposed on Chinese goods as of December 15 did not go away, in addition, the United States has promised to halve the 15- The percentage of duty on certain Chinese goods was charged in September. In exchange, China should have promised to buy more agricultural products from the United States. The Phase 1 agreement is also said to deal with disputes such as intellectual property rights, technology transfer and trade in agricultural products and financial services. It also includes currency policy commitments and a system for interpreting disputes about the agreement.