This program looks at 5,000 years of Chinese history from the early days until President Nixon visited China in 1972 and Mao Zedong reopened it to the West.

China gave the world gunpowder, movable type, toilet paper, the stirrup, paper currency, the wheel barrow, and many other items. Its steel crafting in 500BC was at least 1,500 years ahead of the west.

China's mariners in the 14th century may have discovered north and south America 70 years or more before Columbus sailed. By the late Ming Dynasty such voyages of discovery were outlawed as China retreated behind its Great Wall and adventurers from Europe began to explore the world. For three centuries China tried to shut out the West.

By the 1820s the West began to penetrate China, sparking the infamous Opium Wars along the way. The 100 Years of Humiliation followed as foreign nations competed to control China.

By 1900 the Manchu Dynasty began to lose its grip on the country and was overthrown as China fragmented under the control of various war lords. Sun Yat-Sen's Kuomintang Part (KMT) was seen by many Chinese as the only hope to reunify China. Chiang Kai-Shek took over after Sun Yat-Sen's death and by 1927 a civil raged between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Communists under Mao Zedong. By 1936 a temporary alliance was formed to deal with the increasingly aggressive Japanese.

Many believe that World War II began in 1937 when Japan attacked the Marco Polo bridge outside Beijing and began a ruthless and bloody war that would kill between 10-30 million Chinese.

After Japan surrendered in 1945 civil war in China resumed and was won by the Communists in 1949. China went through the Great Leap Forward to modernize in the late 1950s and lost 40 million people in a policy induced famine, the greatest in recorded history.

By the mid-1960s China's society began to fly apart as the Cultural Revolution began. In a major turning point in history Mao Zedong met with President Richard Nixon and reopened China to the West in 1972 as the Cultural Revolution began to abate.

After Mao's death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping began to make changes in the society that would pull hundreds of millions out of poverty. In 2010 China become the second most powerful economy on the planet.

Part II in this series will look at the economic powerhouse that China has become in the last 35 years. Part III will look at the Chinese experience in America. Part IV will analyze Chinese cuisine and how its various regional cuisines differ.

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