1960s East Asia Timeline

CHINA, JAPAN and the FOUR TIGERS (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore)


  • South Korea’s first president, Syngman Rhee, resigns after 12 years.
  • Taiwan implements its “Plan for Economic and Financial Reform;” begins to emerge as an Asian Tiger.
  • The Soviet Union removes advisors from China, cancels major projects & contracts amidst the chaos of Mao’s “Great Leap Forward.”
  • Oil production begins at Daqing, China’s largest and most productive oil field, in Heilongjiang province in the northeast of the country.


  • Construction begins on Japan’s first nuclear reactor at Tokai, north of Tokyo.
  • Taiwan Stock Exchange opens; the Bank of Taiwan re-established as the Central Bank after a decade hiatus.
  • British Hong Kong starts its extraordinary 180x GDP growth up to the Chinese handover in 1997; inspires Milton Friedman’s label of Hong Kong as “an almost laboratory experiment” in freedom.
  • Zhou Enlai and the Chinese delegation walk out of the Soviet Party Congress in Moscow.


  • China’s “Great Leap Forward” (Second Five-Year Plan) ends after four years; causes tens of millions of deaths and the worst famine in recorded history; limited privatization reintroduced in countryside.


  • President Park Chung-hee ushers in South Korea’s Third Republic; reorients to export-led growth & foreign investment; begins what becomes known as “The Miracle on the Han River.”


  • High-speed “bullet” train service starts between Osaka and Tokyo, Japan.
  • Japan hosts the Olympic Games.

    Tokyo 1964 Welcomes the World to the Olympic Stadium

  • Violent race riots in July and September in Singapore between Chinese and Malays.
  • Chinese physicists test a nuclear device at a former salt lake at Lop Nur in Xinjiang Province.
  • China’s first successful launch of rocket for biological experiment (whit mice). 
  • The People’s Liberation Army publishes Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book of Quotations.


  • South Korea sends over 250,000 troops to assist the American war effort in Vietnam.
  • Taiwan starts great expansion in GDP – of 360% over next 20 years.
  • Lee Kuan Yew becomes prime minister of a fully-independent Singapore republic after a two-year federation with Malaysia; emerges as mighty fourth Asian tiger.
  • Japan and South Korea normalize diplomatic relations (June).


  • Japan builds its first nuclear power plant, in Tokai.
  • China begins its catastrophic 10-year “Cultural Revolution.”


  • South Korea reaches 8% economic growth rate.
  • Daewoo industrial conglomerate (chaebol) in South Korea founded in March.
  • Singapore introduces universal service for men 18 and up; joins four other Southeast Asian countries to found ASEAN.
  • Mao and Zhou Enlai declare the start of China’s manned space program (July 14).


  • Neptune Orient Lines started as Singapore’s national shipping line (December)


  • Soviet and Chinese soldiers clash over Damansky Island on the Ussuri River in the Far East (March). Chinese invasion feared; Soviets fortify the Far East. Life Magazine terms the dangerous and highly-militarized Sino-Soviet border “an angry frontier.”


  • Germany’s Bosch and Japan’s Canon Corp. open manufacturing plants in Taiwan’s “Export Processing Zones.”


  • Start of “Ping Pong” diplomacy/ positive relations between US and China: American ping pong team invites US team to China (April); National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger visits China secretly (July) 
  • The People’s Republic of China admitted to the United Nations under resolution 2758; PRC obtains Security Council seat (ousting Taiwan)(October 25)


  • President Richard Nixon meets Mao Zedong and Chou Enlai in China for eight days (February).
  • Honda Motors introduces its “city car” or Civic.
  • New constitution in South Korea gives president increased powers; inaugurates the Fourth Republic.
  • Singapore Airlines commences operations.


  • Stock exchange of Singapore founded.
  • The Christian [Miao] pastor Wang Zhiming executed (December 29) after four years imprisonment as a counter-revolutionary during the Cultural Revolution; Wang became one of 10 Christian martyrs memorialized at Westminster Abbey in 1998. 

20th Century Martyrs, Westminster Abbey, London. Wang is statue on the right.




  • Singapore (“The Lion City”) ranks as the world’s third busiest port behind Rotterdam and New York.
  • Chiang Kai-shek dies (April 5). 


Singapore Today


Taiwan Skyline

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