China, whose recorded history extends back several thousand years, was once the most advanced civilization on earth. But after centuries of self-imposed isolation, the so-called Middle Kingdom found itself lagging behind the world's industrialized countries. Defeated militarily by the Western powers and Japan during the second half of the 19th century, China went through a series of reforms and revolutions before the emergence of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. Internal political struggles stifled the PRC's development during its early decades, but a reform program that began in the late 1970s has transformed China into an economic powerhouse and an increasingly important player on the international stage. The History of Modern China offers a comprehensive account of China's historical evolution from a prosperous empire to a semi-colonial nation and finally to an independent Communist state. This volume also provides an in-depth analysis of the interplay between China and the outside world, as well as among China's various political forces.