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China: A Century of Revolution; China In Revolution: Battle for Survival, 1911-1936

Part of Stories of East and South East Asia.

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China: A Century of Revolution
China In Revolution: Battle for Survival, 1911-1936
Program Number


Series Description

In 1986 AMBRICA Productions began CHINA: A Century of Revolution, a series of three feature-length documentaries that explore the history of modern China.

The first film, CHINA IN REVOLUTION describes the epic upheaval that began in China with the fall of the last emperor in 1911. Over the next four decades, the Chinese people were caught up in struggles with warlords, foreign invasion and a bitter rivalry between the Chinese Communist Party and the Nationalist Party. The film highlights the two figures who came to shape events, Chang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. First they worked as allies to unite the country and then they fought a bloody civil war that was won by the Communists in 1949.

The trilogy continues with THE MAO YEARS, a look at the next period of modern China’s history: Mao Zedong’s rule, from 1949 to his death in 1976. The film begins with the celebrations marking the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, a moment of great hope for millions of Chinese. But the quarter-century of Mao’s rule was as turbulent as the decades which preceded it. Interludes of relative calm and increased prosperity were interrupted repeatedly by violent campaigns, purges, and a famine in which killed more than 30 million people. It culminated in Mao’s colossal and tragic experiment, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. When Mao died in 1976, people were exhausted by the turmoil and longed for stability.

What happened next could never have been anticipated and forms the story line for the final film of the trilogy; BORN UNDER THE RED FLAG examines China’s remarkable transformation after Mao’s death. In just 15 years, under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership, China raced forward at an astonishing pace to become a never-before-seen hybrid of communism and capitalism. The world’s most populous nation has reinvented itself, changing from a relatively undeveloped and isolated nation into an economic giant and a major player on the world stage. For many Chinese, this transformation has brought unprecedented prosperity, but it has also raised troubling questions of national identity and social inequality.

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Program Description

The film describes the rise to power of the two charismatic leaders who would dominate China s long and bloody revolution - Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Ze-dong. Chiang, a protege of Nationalist Party leader Sun Yat-sen, first achieved national prominence when he embarked on the Northern Expedition, a military campaign that united the country. Chiang established a Nationalist government in Nanking and bolstered his prestige with modernization programs that won him support in the cities of China. Unlike Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Ze-dong believed that the key to revolution lay in the countryside, where most of China s people lived. In the 1930s, Mao moved to Jiangxi Province and set up a Communist base, or soviet, to test his theories. The Communists activities unleashed a violent class struggle in the countryside, and Chiang retaliated with a series of military campaigns in Jiangxi which eventually defeated the Communists. In October 1934, nearly 87,000 Communists, including Mao Ze-dong, were forced out of Jiangxi on a grueling retreat that became known to the world as the Long March. On this 6,000-mile journey, the Communists lost over 90% of their supporters and were left with only about 5,000 people.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Global Affairs
Military Forces and Armaments
Politics and Government
Social Issues
Williams, Sue (Writer)
Dietz, Kathryn (Director)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “China: A Century of Revolution; China In Revolution: Battle for Survival, 1911-1936,” GBH Archives, accessed March 3, 2024,
MLA: “China: A Century of Revolution; China In Revolution: Battle for Survival, 1911-1936.” GBH Archives. Web. March 3, 2024. <>.
APA: China: A Century of Revolution; China In Revolution: Battle for Survival, 1911-1936. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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