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Exhibition highlights historic chapters of modern China

     Defeat in the Opium War and the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842 opened a new chapter in modern Chinese history. Over the next 160 years, China underwent various important events which reflected the changes that the ancient kingdom experienced amid the turbulence of the modern world. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China this year, an exhibition entitled "A Century of China" will be staged at the Hong Kong Museum of History from tomorrow (September 23) to January 4, 2010, for the public to review the modern chapters of China.

     Officiating at the exhibition's opening ceremony today (September 22) was the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang. Other officiating guests were the Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, Mr Peng Qinghua, the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR, Mr Lü Xinhua, the Deputy Director of the National Museum of China, Dr Ma Yingmin, the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, and the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung.

     The exhibition is presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department in collaboration with the National Museum of China, and organised by the Hong Kong Museum of History.
Through about 170 artefacts, about 100 historical pictures and rarely seen documentary footage, the exhibition tells the story of China, its political, economic, social and cultural transformation in the past 160 years.

     As China entered the 20th century, it was on the verge of being "carved up" by the eight allied powers, who had occupied Beijing. With the country on the brink of disaster, some patriots began experimenting with innovative ideas, including the Self-Strengthening Movement and the Hundred Days’ Reform of the late Qing period, though with little success. From the 1911 Revolution, through the May Fourth Movement,
to the rise of the Communist Party of China and the founding of the People's Republic of China, different approaches and methods were adopted that all sought the same objective: the revival of the Chinese nation.

     In September 1949, the Communist Party held the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beiping to discuss national issues with democratic parties, democratic groups and individuals from all over the country. The meeting passed the bill establishing the People's Republic of China, selected the national flag and anthem and elected Mao Zedong as President of the Central People's Government. On October 1, Mao announced the official founding of the People's Republic of China in Tiananmen Square, naming Beiping as the capital but changing the city's name to Beijing. By the end of 1951, national unification had been realised, with the exception of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and a few islands off the coast.

     Following the birth of the new China, the young government launched a large-scale movement of socialist transformation. From the launching of the General Direction of Building Socialism to the Great Leap Forward and the People's Communes, the Chinese economy was mired in severe disarray. The purge of counter-revolutionaries and the anti-rightist campaign in these years pushed China into a long period of mass movements and class conflict, culminating in the "Cultural Revolution", which resulted in 10 years of great upheaval and misery for China. By 1976, however, Mao Zedong was dead and the members of the "Gang of Four" led by Jiang Qing had been arrested. Over the next year, Deng Xiaoping re-emerged from the political wilderness to regain influence and eventually took over the leadership of the state. The 20-year period of exploration under the socialist flag finally came to an end in a wave of self-reflection and reform.

     With the materialisation of Deng Xiaoping's reform and open-door policies in 1978, the government has spared no effort in modernisation and pragmatically steered the country towards a socialistic market economy, introducing the new concept of socialism with Chinese characteristics. It also marked the dawn of a new era with emphasis on raising economic productivity. While a "household contract responsibility system" was carried out in the villages, share ownership was introduced to state-owned enterprises in the cities. Private and foreign-invested enterprises accounted for an ever-increasing share of national gross industrial output. Special economic zones were set up and coastal ports were opened to attract foreign investment and import advance technology from foreign countries. The establishment of township and village enterprises added to the revenue of the villages and reduced their income gap with the cities. The national economy was gaining strength year by year.

     During the final decade of the 20th century, "internationalisation" became the key word in China's social development. Today, China's GDP is now 10 times larger than it was 30 years ago when the reform and open-door policies first began. Total imports and exports have increased by 70 times, while China's foreign exchange reserves have increased nearly 5,000-fold. In 1999, China launched its Western Development Programme in Xi'an. This project encompassed 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, including Sichuan, Yunnan, Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia, which together account for 71.4% of China's total land mass. The Qingzang railway line, completed in 2006, was one of its most remarkable developments, marking the first time China had built a railway on the highlands of Tibet. The economies in the cities and administrative townships have continued to develop. In 2006, China repealed the agricultural tax, freeing farmers from a levy that had been in place for more than 2,600 years. China-made products are now sold around the world, helping to drive the global economy.

     From the first trials of the Shenzhou spaceship in 1999 to the launch of a lunar exploration satellite in 2007 and the first space walk by a Chinese astronaut in 2008, China has made tremendous achievements by applying science and education to strengthen the country.

     The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, which captured the world's attention, are regarded as a proof of a rising China with prosperity and boundless energy.

     The Museum of History is located at 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Admission to "A Century of China" exhibition is $20 from Thursday to Monday, and $10 on Wednesdays. A half-price concession is available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, full-time students and people with disabilities.

     For details of the exhibition, please visit the Museum of History's websites or, or call 2724 9042.

Ends/Tuesday, September 22, 2009


In 1959, peasants from the Beijing suburbs carried slogans of the Three Red Banners during a march celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. (Photo courtesy of The National Museum of China)


On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China atop Tiananmen gate in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of The National Museum of China)


Picture shows the allied forces of 18,000 soldiers from Britain, France, United States, Japan, Russia, Germany, Italy and Austria at the Forbidden City in August 1900. Their occupation of Beijing lasted 13 months. (Photo courtesy of The National Archives and Records Administration, USA)


In May 1915, Yuan Shikai's representatives agreed to Japan's Twenty-one Demands in order to win support from the Japanese government for his scheme to restore the monarchy. This incident sowed the seeds of discontent that led to the May Fourth Movement. (Photo courtesy of The National Museum of China)


One of the exhibits, wax figures of China's Leader Deng Xiaoping and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. This scene depicts the meeting between Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in September 1982 when they discussed the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty. The figures were produced by Pang Liming and Ai Desheng of the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts. (Photo courtesy of the Hong Kong Museum of History)


One of the major exhibits featured at the exhibition of "A Century of China" - is an Imperial notice on the Treaty of Tianjin and the Convention of Peking issued by the Qing government in 1860. Signed after the First Opium War, the Treaty of Nanjing did not resolve the problems created by the opium trade. Proposed revisions to the treaty contributed to the outbreak of the Second Opium War. The Qing government was forced to sign the Treaty of Tianjin in 1858 and the Convention of Peking in 1860. (Photo courtesy of the Hong Kong Museum of History)


One of the exhibits, Fou drums used during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. At 8.08pm on August 8, 2008, the opening ceremony of the 29th Olympic Games began in Beijing with the imposing and grandiose "Fou drum song accompaniment" performed by 2,008 Fou drums grouped in formation. The performance represented the rites and traditions of China as well as 100 years of the hopes and dreams of the Chinese people. (Photo courtesy of the Hong Kong Jockey Club)




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