A chronology of key events:
ca 1700-1046 BC - Shang Dynasty - the first Chinese state for which clear written records remain - unites much of north central China.
1045-ca 770 BC - Zhou dynasty replaces Shang as dominant force across northern China,
ca 770 BC - Zhou state collapses into loose association of warring states, known as the Eastern Zhou.
221-206 BC - King Ying Zheng of Qin for the first time unites much of the Chinese heartland, becomes the first ruler to use the title "emperor" as Qin Shihuangdi ("First Qin Emperor") and builds first Great Wall of China, but his empire quickly collapses after his death. After a brief period of instability, Liu Bang founds the Han dynasty.
206 BC - 220 AD - Han Dynasty: first durable state governing the entire Chinese heartland, ushers in first Chinese cultural "golden age", growth in money economy, and the promotion of Confucianism as the state philosophy. Buddhism makes its first inroads into China.
220 - 589 - Collapse of Han state results in nearly four centuries of division between competing dynasties before China is reunited by the short-lived Sui dynasty. Start of the development of southern China.
618-907 - Tang Dynasty unites China for nearly three centuries, in what is seen as the second high point of Chinese civilisation after the Han; imperial sphere of influence reaches Central Asia for the first time.
960-1279 - Song Dynasty: While weaker than the Tang empire militarily and politically, Song rule marks a high point of Chinese classical culture, with a flowering of literature, scientific innovation and the adoption of Neo-Confucianism as the official state ideology.
1271-1368 - Mongols conquer China and establish their own Yuan Dynasty, founded by Kublai Khan. Marco Polo and other Westerners visit. Beijing becomes the capital of a united China.
1368 - Ming Dynasty overthrows Mongols and establishes sophisticated agricultural economy, underpinning strong centralised bureaucracy and military. Great Wall of China completed in the form seen today.
1644 - Manchu Qing Dynasty drives out Ming. Chinese empire reaches its zenith, with the annexation of Tibet, Mongolia and present-day Xinjiang (Turkestan).
19th Century - Qing Dynasty begins a long decline. Western powers impose "unequal treaties" that create foreign concessions in China's ports. Regional warlords rise as central government atrophies.
1899-1901 - "Boxer Rebellion" in Northern China seeks to stifle reforms in the Qing administration, drive out foreigners and re-establish traditional rule. Defeated by foreign intervention, with Western powers, Russia and Japan extracting further concessions from weakened Qing government.
1911-12 - Military revolts by reform-minded officers lead to proclamation of Republic of China under Sun Yat-sen and abdication of last Qing emperor. Republic struggles to consolidate its rule amid regional warlordism and the rise of the Communist Party.
1925 - The death of Sun Yat-sen brings Chiang Kai-shek to the fore. He breaks with the Communists and confirms the governing Kuomintang as a nationalist party.
1931-45 - Japan invades and gradually occupies more and more of China.
1934-35 - Mao Zedong emerges as Communist leader during the party's "Long March" to its new base in Shaanxi Province.
1937 - Kuomintang and Communists nominally unite against Japanese. Civil war resumes after Japan's defeat in Second World War.
1949 - 1 October - Mao Zedong, having led the Communists to victory against the Nationalists after more than 20 years of civil war, proclaims the founding of the People's Republic of China. The Nationalists retreat to the island of Taiwan and set up a government there.
1950 October - China sends People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops into Tibet enforcing a longstanding claim.
1958 - Mao launches the "Great Leap Forward", a five-year economic plan. Farming is collectivised and labour-intensive industry is introduced. The drive produces economic breakdown and is abandoned after two years. Disruption to agriculture is blamed for the deaths by starvation of millions of people following poor harvests.
1959 - Chinese forces suppress large-scale revolt in Tibet.
1962 - Brief conflict with India over disputed Himalayan border.
1966-76 - "Cultural Revolution", Mao's 10-year political and ideological campaign aimed at reviving revolutionary spirit, produces massive social, economic and political upheaval.
1972 - US President Richard Nixon visits. Both countries declare a desire to normalise relations.
1976 - Mao dies. "Gang of Four", including Mao's widow, jockey for power but are arrested and convicted of crimes against the state. From 1977 Deng Xiaoping emerges as the dominant figure among pragmatists in the leadership. Under him, China undertakes far-reaching economic reforms.
1979 - Diplomatic relations established with the US.
Government imposes one-child policy in effort to curb population growth.
1986-90 - China's "Open-door policy" opens the country to foreign investment and encourages development of a market economy and private sector.
1989 - Troops open fire on demonstrators who have camped for weeks in Tiananmen Square initially to demand the posthumous rehabilitation of former CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang, who was forced to resign in 1987. The official death toll is 200. International outrage leads to sanctions.
1989 - Jiang Zemin takes over as Chinese Communist Party general secretary from Zhao Ziyang, who refused to support martial law during the Tiananmen demonstrations.
Stockmarkets open in Shanghai and Shenzhen.
1992 - Russia and China sign declaration restoring friendly ties.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranks China's economy as third largest in the world after the US and Japan.
Three Gorges project
1993 - Jiang Zemin officially replaces Yang Shangkun as president.
Preliminary construction work on the Three Gorges dam begins. It will create a lake almost 600 kilometres (375 miles) long and submerge dozens of cultural heritage sites by the time it is completed in 2009.
1994 - China abolishes the official renminbi (RMB) currency exchange rate and fixes its first floating rate since 1949.
1995 - China tests missiles and holds military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, apparently to intimidate Taiwan during its presidential elections.
1996 - China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - dubbed the Shanghai Five - meet in Shanghai and agree to cooperate to combat ethnic and religious tensions in each others' countries.
1997 - Deng Xiaoping dies, aged 92. Rioting erupts in Yining, Xinjiang and on day of Deng's funeral Xinjiang separatists plant three bombs on buses in Urumqi, Xinjiang, killing nine and injuring 74.
Hong Kong reverts to Chinese control.
1998 - Zhu Rongji succeeds Li Peng as premier, announces reforms in the wake of the Asian financial crisis and continued deceleration of the economy. Thousands of state-owned enterprises are to be restructured through amalgamations, share flotations and bankruptcies. About four million civil service jobs to be axed.
Large-scale flooding of the Yangtse, Songhua and Nenjiang rivers.
1999 - Nato bombs the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, souring Sino-US relations.
Falun Gong, a quasi-religious sect, outlawed as a threat to stability.
Fiftieth anniversary of People's Republic of China on 1st October.
Macao reverts to Chinese rule.
2000 - Crackdown on official corruption intensifies, with the execution for bribe taking of a former deputy chairman of the National People's Congress.
Bomb explosion kills up to 60 in Urumqi, Xinjiang.
2001 April - Diplomatic stand-off over the detention of an American spy plane and crew after a mid-air collision with a Chinese fighter jet.
2001 June - Leaders of China, Russia and four Central Asian states launch the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and sign an agreement to fight ethnic and religious militancy while promoting trade and investment. The group emerges when the Shanghai Five - China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - are joined by Uzbekistan.
2001 June - China carries out military exercises simulating an invasion of Taiwan, at the same time as the island's armed forces test their capability to defend Taiwan against a missile attack from China.
2001 November - China joins the World Trade Organisation.
2002 February - US President George W Bush visits, on the 30th anniversary of President Nixon's visit to China - the first by a US president.
2002 July - The US says China is modernising its military to make possible a forcible reunification with Taiwan. Beijing says its policy remains defensive.
2002 November - Vice-President Hu Jintao is named head of the ruling Communist Party, replacing Jiang Zemin, the outgoing president. Jiang is re-elected head of the influential Central Military Commission, which oversees the armed forces.
2003 March - National People's Congress elects Hu Jintao as president. He replaces Jiang Zemin, who steps down after 10 years in the post.
Sars virus outbreak
2003 March-April - China and Hong Kong are hit by the pneumonia-like Sars virus, thought to have originated in Guangdong province in November 2002. Strict quarantine measures are enforced to stop the disease spreading.
2003 June - Sluice gates on Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower scheme, are closed to allow the reservoir to fill up.
2003 June - Hong Kong is declared free of Sars. Days later the World Health Organization lifts its Sars-related travel warning for Beijing.
2003 June - China, India reach de facto agreement over status of Tibet and Sikkim in landmark cross-border trade agreement.
2003 July-August - Some 500,000 people march in Hong Kong against Article 23, a controversial anti-subversion bill. Two key Hong Kong government officials resign. The government shelves the bill.
China in space
2003 October - Launch of China's first manned spacecraft: Astronaut Yang Liwei is sent into space by a Long March 2F rocket.
2004 September - Former president Jiang Zemin stands down as army chief, three years ahead of schedule.
2004 November - China signs a landmark trade agreement with 10 south-east Asian countries; the accord could eventually unite 25% of the world's population in a free-trade zone.
2005 January - Former reformist leader Zhao Ziyang dies. He opposed violent measures to end 1989's student protests and spent his last years under virtual house arrest.
Aircraft chartered for the Lunar New Year holiday make the first direct flights between China and Taiwan since 1949.
2005 March - Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa resigns. He is succeeded in June by Donald Tsang.
New law on Taiwan calls for use of force should Taipei declare independence from mainland China.
Tensions with Japan
2005 April - Relations with Japan deteriorate amid sometimes-violent anti-Japanese protests in Chinese cities, sparked by a Japanese textbook which China says glosses over Japan's World War II record.
Taiwan's National Party leader Lien Chan visits China for the first meeting between Nationalist and Communist Party leaders since 1949.
2005 August - China and Russia hold their first joint military exercises.
2005 October - China conducts its second manned space flight, with two astronauts circling Earth in the Shenzhou VI capsule.
2005 November - Explosion at a chemical plant poisons the Songhua river, cutting off water supplies to millions of people.
2006 May - Work on the structure of the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project, is completed.
2006 July - New China-Tibet railway line, the world's highest train route, begins operating.
2006 August - Official news agency says 18 million people are affected by what it describes as the country's worst drought in 50 years.
2006 November - African heads of state gather for a China-Africa summit in Beijing. Business deals worth nearly $2bn are signed and China promises billions of dollars in loans and credits.
Government says pollution has degraded China's environment to a critical level, threatening health and social stability.
2007 January - Reports say China has carried out a missile test in space, shooting down an old weather satellite. The US, Japan and others express concern at China's military build-up.
2007 February - President Hu Jintao tours eight African countries to boost trade and investment. Western rights groups criticise China for dealing with corrupt or abusive regimes.
2007 April - During a landmark visit, Wen Jiabao becomes the first Chinese prime minister to address Japan's parliament. Both sides agree to try to iron out differences over their shared history.
2007 June - New labour law introduced after hundreds of men and boys were found working as slaves in brick factories.
2007 July - China's food and drug agency chief is executed for taking bribes. Food and drug scandals have sparked international fears about the safety of Chinese exports.
2007 September - A new Roman Catholic bishop of Beijing is consecrated - the first for over 50 years to have the tacit approval of the Pope.
2007 October - China launches its first moon orbiter.
2008 January - The worst snowstorms in decades are reported to have affected up to 100 million people.
2008 March - Anti-China protests escalate into the worst violence Tibet has seen in 20 years, five months before Beijing hosts the Olympic Games.
Pro-Tibet activists in several countries focus world attention on the region by disrupting progress of the Olympic torch relay.
2008 May - A massive earthquake hits Sichuan province, killing tens of thousands.
2008 June - China and Taiwan agree to set up offices in each other's territory at the first formal bilateral talks since 1999.
Japan and China reach a deal for the joint development of a gas field in the East China Sea, resolving a four-year-old dispute.
2008 July - China and Russia sign a treaty ending 40-year-old border dispute which led to armed clashes during the Cold War.
2008 August - Beijing hosts Olympic Games.
Hua Guofeng, who succeeded Mao Zedong for a short period in 1976, dies in Beijing aged 87
2008 September - Astronaut Zhai Zhigang completes China's first spacewalk during the country's third manned space mission, Shenzhou VII.
Nearly 53,000 Chinese children fall ill after drinking tainted milk, leading Premier Wen Jiabao to apologise for the scandal.
Global financial crisis
2008 November - The government announces a $586bn (£370bn) stimulus package to avoid the economy slowing. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says the effect of the global financial crisis on China is worse than expected.
2009 February - Russia and China sign $25bn deal to supply China with oil for next 20 years in exchange for loans.
Hillary Clinton calls for deeper US-China partnership on first overseas tour as secretary of state.
2009 July - Scores of people are killed and hundreds injured in the worst ethnic violence in decades as a protest in the restive Xinjiang region turns violent.
First sign of relaxation of strictly enforced one-child policy, as officials in Shanghai urge parents to have a second child in effort to counter effects of ageing population.
Leaders of China and Taiwan exchange direct messages for the first time in more than 60 years.
2009 October - China stages mass celebrations to mark 60 years since the Communist Party came to power.
Six men are sentenced to death for involvement in ethnic violence in Xinjiang.
2009 December - China executes Briton Akmal Shaikh for drug dealing, despite pleas for clemency from the British government.
Tensions with US, Japan
2010 January - China posts a 17.7% rise in exports in December, suggesting it has overtaken Germany as the world's biggest exporter.
The US calls on Beijing to investigate the cyber attacks, saying China has tightened censorship. China condemns US criticism of its internet controls.
2010 March - The web giant Google ends its compliance with Chinese internet censorship and starts re-directing web searches to a Hong Kong, in response to cyber attacks on e-mail accounts of human rights activists.
2010 September - Diplomatic row erupts over Japan's arrest of Chinese trawler crew in disputed waters in East China Sea. Japan later frees the crew but rejects Chinese demands for an apology.
2010 October - Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is awarded Nobel Peace Prize, prompting official protests from Beijing.
Vice-President Xi Jinping named vice-chairman of powerful Central Military Commission, in a move widely seen as a step towards succeeding President Hu Jintao.
No.2 world economy
2011 February - China formally overtakes Japan to become the world's second-largest economy after Tokyo published figures showing a Japanese GDP rise of only four per cent in 2010.
2011 April - Arrest of Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei for "economc crimes" sparks international campaign for his release. He is freed after more than two months' detention.
2011 July-August - Police kill seven Uighurs suspected of being behind separate attacks in the towns of Horan and Kashgar blamed on separatists.
2011 November - Authorities present outspoken artist Ai Weiwei with $2.3m tax demand, which is paid by donations from his supporters.
2011 December - Southern fishing village of Wukan comes to international attention after violent protests by locals against land seizures by officials. Authorities respond by sacking two local officials and agreeing to villagers' key demands.
China issues new rules requiring users of microblogs to register personal details.
2012 January - Official figures suggest city dwellers outnumber China's rural population for the first time. Both imports and exports dip, raising concern that the global economic slowdown could be acting as a drag on growth.
Bo Xilai scandal
2012 March - Chongqing Communist Party chief and potential leadership hopeful Bo Xilai is dismissed on the eve of the party's 10-yearly leadership change, in the country's biggest political scandal for years. His wife, Gu Kailai, is placed under investigations over the death of British businessman Neil Heywood in the city in November.
2012 April - China ups the limit within which the yuan currency can fluctuate to 1% in trading against the US dollar, from 0.5%. The US welcomes the move, as it has been pressing China to let the yuan appreciate.
2012 May - Philippines and Chinese naval vessels confront one another off the Scarborough Shoal reef in the South China Sea. Both countries claim the reef, which may have significant reserves of oil and gas.
2012 June - China completes its first ever manual docking of a spacecraft with another space module, when Shenzhou-9 docked with the Tiangong-1 lab module without relying on an automated system. China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, took part.
2012 August - Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced politician Bo Xilai, is given a suspended death sentence after admitting to murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. State media for the first time link Bo himself to the scandal.
2012 September - China cancels ceremonies to mark the 40th anniversary of restored diplomatic ties with Japan because of a public flare-up over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Talks between China and Japan on security matters nonetheless go ahead.
China launches its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning - a converted former Soviet vessel.
2012 November - Communist Party holds congress expected to start a once-in-a-decade transfer of power to a new generation of leaders. Vice-President and heir-apparent Xi Jinping takes over as party chief and assumes the presidency in March 2013.
2013 January - A Tibetan monk receives a suspended death sentence for inciting eight people to burn themselves to death. Nearly 100 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009, many fatally, in apparent protest against Chinese rule.
2013 February - China denies allegations by Japan that its navy ships twice put radar locks on Japanese military vessels, amid mounting tension over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.
2013 March - Xi Jinping takes over as president, completing the once-in-a-decade transfer of power to a new generation of leaders. He launches an efficiency and anti-corruption drive.
2013 August - Two ethnic Uighur men are sentenced to death over clashes in Xinjiang in April that left 21 people dead, according to Beijing.
2013 September - Former senior leader Bo Xilai is sentenced to life in prison for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in the most politically charged trial in China in decades.
2013 November - Communist Party leadership announces plans to relax one-child policy, in force since 1979. Other reforms include the abolition of "re-education through labour" camps.
China says it has established a new Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over an area of the East China Sea, covering disputed islands controlled by Japan and a disputed South Korean-controlled rock. Japan and South Korea both protest against the move, and the US voices concern.
2013 December - China successfully lands the Yutu ("Jade Rabbit") robotic rover on the surface of the moon, the first soft landing there for 37 years.
2014 January - China allows foreign companies majority ownership of some telecom and internet services in the Shanghai free trade zone.
The planned three-month mission on the moon of China's Yutu robotic rover is cut short by mechanical problems.
2014 February - China's trade surplus jumps to $31.9bn (£19.4bn) - up 14 per cent from a year earlier - easing concerns the world's second-largest economy may be stuck in a slowdown.
2014 May - The US charges five Chinese army officers with industrial cyber-espionage, in the first case of its kind.
A row with Vietnam over disputed islands escalates, as ships from the two countries collide in the waters of the South China Sea. Chinese workers flee Vietnam after the row sparks anti-China riots.
China signs a 30-year deal worth an estimated $400bn for gas supplies from Russia's Gazprom.
Hong Kong protests
2014 September-October - Protests against Beijing's plans to vet candidates for elections in 2017 grip Hong Kong.
2014 December - Ex-security chief Zhou Yongkang, the most senior Chinese official to be investigated for corruption, is arrested and expelled from the Communist Party.
2015 January - China's economic growth falls to its lowest level for more than 20 years - 7.4% percent in 2014. Government revises growth targets down.
2015 September - President Xi pays official visit to the United States to seek investment in China; agrees to abjure from economic cyber-espionage.
2015 October - China expresses anger at US naval ship sailing by artificial reefs Beijing is building among disputed Spratly Islands in South China Sea.
The Communist Party announces it has decided to end the decades-old one-child policy.
2015 November - China's President Xi Jinping and Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou hold historic talks in Singapore, the first such meeting since the Chinese Civil War finished and the nations split in 1949.
2016 January - Economic growth in 2015 falls to lowest rate in 25 years (6.9%, down from 7.3% in 2014), and International Monetary Fund predicts further deceleration over next two years.
2017 January - The country's slow economic growth continues, with the 2016 marking its slowest growth (6.7%) since 1990.
US trade tension
2017 April - President Xi urges trade cooperation with the US at his first official meeting with US President Donald Trump in Florida.
2017 June - The government passes a new cyber security law, giving it more control over the data of foreign and domestic firms.
2017 July-August - Row with India over disputed area of Himalayas, where China says Indian troops were trespassing.
2017 October - Communist Party votes at its congress to enshrine Xi Jinping's name and ideology in its constitution, elevating him to the level as founder Mao Zedong.
2018 March - National People's Congress annual legislative meeting votes to remove a two-term limit on the presidency from the constitution, allowing Xi Jinping to remain in office for longer than the conventional decade for recent Chinese leaders.
2018 April - China announces it will impose 25% trade tariffs on a list of 106 US goods, including soybeans, cars, and orange juice, in retaliation for similar US tariffs on about 1,300 Chinese products.
2019 June - Hong Kong sees start of months of anti-government and pro-democracy protests, involving violent clashes with police, against a proposal to allow extradition to mainland China.
2020 January - Outbreak of Covid-19 coronavirus in Hubei province spreads worldwide.